Nursing researchers score higher

1 April 2013

Investing in nursing research appears to have paid dividends with the country’s nursing scholars stepping up a notch in the latest research quality rankings.

The emerging research field still has a long way to go, though, with nursing still only ranked 41 out of 42 subjects assessed in the latest Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF).

But the overall quality score (out of 10) has grown from the bruisingly low score of 2.57 in 2003 to 3.34 in the 2012 round released recently by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

“It’s great to see that nursing has certainly improved,” said Associate Professor Lisa Whitehead, project director for the STAR project.

The  $2.7 million STAR project was funded by TEC in 2007 to build and boost the research capability of nursing and allied health disciplines.

“It looks like its paid direct dividends in the quantity and quality of research that nurses have been undertaking,” said Whitehead.

The number of nursing scholars from the country’s nursing schools assessed as being research active or emerging has grown from just 21 in 2003 to 63 in the latest round. Also the number of scholars getting an “A” for world class research has gone from none in 2003 to one in 2006 and three in 2012. The number getting a “B” for good research has also more than doubled to 15.

The improvement was also noted in the PBRF report, which said the relatively low scores of areas like nursing (and the newly bottom ranked sport and exercise science) reflected their emerging nature but the number of nursing researchers demonstrating high levels of research quality had “increased markedly”.

Whitehead, who is director for the University of Otago’s Centre for Postgraduate Nursing Studies, said with the STAR funding now all allocated, the project had sent in its final report to TEC.

“We were very happy with the outcomes and very impressed by the number and breadth of research we were able to fund.”

The STAR fund was used to fund 16 research projects in 2008/2009 and a number of PhD scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships with the last two fellowships just granted this year.

Nursing scholars on average scored 3.34 compared to the average for all 42 subjects of 4.66. Allied health (grouped together under ‘other health’) had a score of 3.98 and ranked 40th.